"I am always deeply moved by seeing how so many people lead their daily lives without complaining... and hope.... to be able to share their suffering, if only a little," he said.
Schoolgirl Rin Yamane recounted the horror of the day she lost her mother as they tried to escape the waves.
"Suddenly, we were in the middle of a black sea... When I saw her in a morgue a few days later, I knew then it was a reality," she said.
Police in Miyagi prefecture were Monday continuing their search for those still listed as missing, with a 50-strong team scouring the coastline.
"We haven't found any bodies for a year," police officer Toshiaki Okajima told AFP.
"But there are still 1,300 missing people in Miyagi alone and the feelings of families haven't changed. That's why the police need to keep looking for remains."
Efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow. Figures show 315,196 people are still without a permanent home, many in cramped temporary housing units.
Tsunami-hit communities are divided among those who want to rebuild on land that may have been in the family for generations and those who want to move their towns to higher, safer ground.